Alfred the Great’s affirmation of Biblical law

About a fifth of the law code [issued by Alfred the Great, 9th century King of Wessex] is taken up by Alfred’s introduction, which includes translations into English of the Decalogue, a few chapters from the Book of Exodus, and the “Apostolic Letter” from Acts of the Apostles (15:23–29). The Introduction may best be understood as Alfred’s meditation upon the meaning of Christian law. It traces the continuity between God’s gift of Law to Moses to Alfred’s own issuance of law to the West Saxon people. By doing so, it links the holy past to the historical present and represents Alfred’s law-giving as a type of divine legislation.

This is the reason that Alfred divided his code into precisely 120 chapters: 120 was the age at which Moses died and, in the number-symbolism of early medieval biblical exegetes, 120 stood for law. The link between the Mosaic Law and Alfred’s code is the “Apostolic Letter,” which explained that Christ “had come not to shatter or annul the commandments but to fulfil them; and he taught mercy and meekness” (Intro, 49.1). The mercy that Christ infused into Mosaic Law underlies the injury tariffs that figure so prominently in barbarian law codes, since Christian synods “established, through that mercy which Christ taught, that for almost every misdeed at the first offence secular lords might with their permission receive without sin the monetary compensation, which they then fixed.”

Quote source

Wikimedia Foundation (2014). Alfred the Great. Available http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_the_Great. Last accessed 12th Jul 2014

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